LULAC Virtual Summit Sucess Is A Preview To Future Advocacy
Nation’s Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Says COVID-19 Speeds Up a Move Toward More Use of Technology
Washington, DC - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) 2020 Virtual Summit, “All for One, One for All: United in Action to Transform America” drew the largest continuous online audience in the organization’s history during nearly 30 hours of programming and more than 80 content experts, speakers and elected officials.
“Our analysis of the summit results clearly shows that this is a step in the right direction,” says Sindy Benavides, National Chief Executive Officer. “From the programmatic perspective of LULAC’s mission, we were able to touch more people in a concentrated period of time while being very cognizant of their safety and well-being given the coronavirus. We don’t know how long COVID-19 will last but LULAC is well poised to accelerate and amplify advocacy using virtual platforms to continue our momentum during a very important time of social change. As LULAC continues to protect and defend our community in every aspect, we will use technology for good to transform the way we connect and take actions,” she added.
The summit’s first address was by House Majority Whip James Clyburn whose stirring words reminded attendees of the “calling to serve, not for self, but others” while the “duty of our freedom is to lift those most oppressed” as he saluted LULAC’s legacy of leadership. Following his address, the plenary session that followed highlighted the need for coalitions as one of the most important tools when confronting institutional bias and racism. The conversation featured a powerhouse of the nation’s leading social justice leaders: LULAC National President Domingo Garcia, YWCA National Chief Executive Officer Alejandra Castillo, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt.
“Nothing is going to stop LULAC right now,” says Domingo Garcia, National President. “We don’t have time to wait as Jose and Maria are getting infected and dying from COVID-19 while keeping the country going. Social justice is not a black-only or brown-only problem. It is everyone’s problem because this country needs our labor today as much as it did in the past but now we have the laws, the votes and the will to use both to create systemic changes. This summit shows Latinos are technology-savvy and we can use it both as a tool and a weapon to defend ourselves from those who try to do our communities harm,” he added.
This session was followed by examining the effects of inequities for Latinos in accessing quality healthcare even for essential COVID-19 services, shifting immigration policies including family separations to denial of protections for asylum-seekers and increased swift deportations, plus a timely discussion on the economic impact the pandemic is having on Latino families and how financial literacy is vital. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened day two of the LULAC Summit with a call to action for the country’s 60-million Latinos with a challenge to confront long-held racial and gender exclusionary practices, replacing these with a new wave of opportunities for every man, woman and child in America. That message was affirmed by former HUD Secretary and presidential candidate Julian Castro who stated change must be accelerated and called November 3rd a “tipping point moment” in modern history for the United States.
Another historic moment for LULAC was taking a hard look at safety in the military ranks for Latino men and women. U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told the audience that the death of Army Pvt. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood, Texas, was tragedy that must now be a call to action to ensure that women in uniform as well as men are not the victims of sexual harassment, abuse or worse. Secretary McCarthy pointed to the creation of an independent committee to examine reports of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) as evidence that the Army supports increased oversight and investigations when warranted. Although this is a first step, LULAC is also calling for a Congressional hearing on soldier Guillen and the issue of harassment across all branches in the military.
The panel discussion that followed included Captain (Ret.) Quetta Rodriguez, USMC, Colonel (Ret.) Michelle Hernandez de Fraley Ph.D., U.S. Army, Colonel (Ret.) Lisa Carrington Firmin, USAF and Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Carrie F. Ricci, U.S. Army.
Equally important was the panel discussion on the importance of Latinos having access to technology and broadband internet service during COVID-19 restrictions limiting face-to-face contacts in schools, government services and other daily needs. The day’s culminating session was an informative and insightful examination of the state of our environment and its impact on communities of color in health, economics and overall quality of life. Also, the panel brought forth a future generations’ perspective to the conversation and the challenge that present day political and social leaders must accept as more of the effects of climate change become irreversible. An inspiring presentation followed by ABC News Correspondent John Quinoñes who shared the personal challenges he overcame to achieve a 35-year career on the network. Today, he is one of American television’s most recognized news talents as creator and anchor of “What would you do?” The program allows us see ourselves the way others may.
“Day two of the virtual summit was really about awakening to the fallacy that we can accept change incrementally when every indicator clearly shows there are imperatives to confront and time is not our friend,” says Benavides. “From Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Castro’s powerful messages of putting democracy into action to danger in the ranks for Latino servicemen and women and then, the real and practical implications of technology, environmental justice in our daily lives and one journalist’s life work to uplift the Latino story. LULAC’s focus has never been clearer, our resolve stronger and the moment to act more necessary than now,” she adds.
The climax of LULAC’s three-day virtual summit was the participation of Jill Biden, former Second Lady and wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. “I guarantee you, Latinos will have a place at the table,” she told the national audience referring to a Biden-Harris Administration following the upcoming presidential election. Dr. Biden was critical of how Latinos have fared during COVID-19 suffering disproportionate health and economic losses and assured the nation’s Latinos and communities of color that access to affordable health care continues to be a worthwhile and necessary goal for America.
“LULAC leads, never follows because we are about taking action,” says Garcia. “No government agency whether federal, state or local has done what we have during this virtual summit of making sure the Latino community has the information they need to survive. It is wrong for them to be criticized for getting infected from COVID-19 when it’s President Trump forcing them to go into packing plants dealing with the virus but then says he has no responsibility for them getting sick. It is wrong for Latino kids to fail in school but then we fail to make sure they have access to the internet to access online learning and study at home during this pandemic and not fall behind. And it is wrong for our community to be told you don’t vote but then we see Republican governors and other elected officials doing voter suppression to block our votes. This is the first LULAC virtual summit and we promise, to continue to stay connected to garner action,” adds Garcia. To see an encore presentation of the 2020 LULAC Virtual Summit, which was a 100% Latino production, please see: www.lulac.org/summit2020/
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/